Lancashire County Council’s cabinet has given the green light to a £1.8m redesign of the point where Liverpool Road, Broadgate, Strand Road and Fishergate Hill all meet on the outskirts of the city centre.
The revamped road layout is based around the creation of an orbital cycle track which will encircle the junction and allow cyclists to manoeuvre around it while being kept separate from motor vehicles.
The safety of bike-riders will be maintained by ensuring that any potential conflict points between them and other road users are signal-controlled. Cyclists will also be able to make right turns at the junction in a single phase.
Similarly, a dedicated pedestrian ring will be formed to segregate those tackling the junction on foot and enable them to navigate it safely. Separate signals for pedestrians and cyclists will help to keep those two groups apart, although they will share a path on the approaches.
It is the first time that the futuristic design - known as a Cycle Optimised Protected Signals, or CYCLOPS, junction - will have been used on a Lancashire highway and only the third one of its kind to be developed nationwide.
Its installation will also align with the Guild Wheel cycle route, which is bisected by the busy junction. A two-way cycle crossing will be created to remove the need for cyclists heading south to circle the new layout.
A report presented to cabinet members recognises that the reduction in road capacity that will result from the redesign could be of “slight disbenefit” to drivers.
However, while officials say that any downsides for mortorists will be managed by the optimal setting of the traffic signals, they also explain that the intention behind the scheme - and an explicit requirement attached to the government funding to pay for it - is to "meaningfully alter the status quo" which currently exists between different road users.
The cabinet papers state: “A degree of driver disbenefit complements the introduction of active travel infrastructure by [encouraging] alternative travel choices, such as the switch to walking and cycling.
“Equally, a reduction in motor traffic resulting from [this] shift may have a positive impact on journey times across the wider network.
“The junction at Broadgate currently presents a major potential conflict point for pedestrians and cyclists along the route from Penwortham to the city centre, which it is recommended requires mitigation,” the report adds.
The cabinet meeting at which the scheme was approved was also told that the safety improvements it will bring are expected to unlock “latent demand” for journeys by bike or on foot along the corridor between South Ribble and Preston.
The CYCLOPS junction - which will be fully-funded by a grant from the Department for Transport’s Active Travel Fund - follows on from the creation last year of the so-called Penwortham Cycle Superhighway, a segregated lane for cyclists on Liverpool Road between Penwortham Bridge and Cop Lane.
Traditional cycle lanes also run along the route through to the Penwortham bypass and cabinet member for environment and climate change Shaun Turner said that the new Liverpool Road and Broadgate junction would complete a “brilliant passageway into [Preston] for anybody who wants to come in by bicycle or walking”.
Work on the intersection is set to begin in September and the Post understands that it is likely to last around six months.
Highways and transport cabinet member Charlie Edwards said that any road closures that were necessary during the overhaul would be co-ordinated with flood defence work being carried out in the area by the Environment Agency in order to “minimise any disruption to the public”.
He also told colleagues that responses to a two-stage public consultation - an informal engagement late last year and a formal process undertaken in April - had been largely positive. Fewer than 10 percent of respondants took issue with the proposed designs.
“One comment was about the perceived lack of parking - and that was a really good point that was raised by [a] resident.
“We can confirm that…bringing this junction in…will actually cause no reduction in the amount of parking [available],” County Cllr Edwards said, adding that separate improvements to parking in the Broadgate area were currently being explored.
As part of the junction overhaul, speed humps and a parallel crossing will be introduced on Fishergate Hill, along with reconfigured parking, waiting and loading arrangements. Bus stops on Fishergate Hill and Broadgate will also be upgraded.
The “filter lanes” that currently exist for left-turning traffic on all sides of the junction will be removed, except for the one from Fishergate Hill, which will be realigned to reduce traffic speeds and improve the pedestrian environment outside the medical centre and neighbouring businesses on the road.
County Clr Edwards told cabinet colleagues that the scheme was “part of our overall strategy to improve accessibility, [the] desirability of cycling and walking [and to take] cars off the road”.
In a statement after the meeting, he added: "Currently, pedestrians and cyclists have no option but to cross the traffic, which can lead to conflicts with vehicles and can be intimidating - creating a potential barrier to people choosing to walk or cycle.
"This new type of junction is designed to be safer and easier by providing some separation between cyclists and vehicles - and allows cyclists to cross efficiently rather than in stages as they wait for other vehicles to go first.”
The CYCLOPS design was first deployed in Greater Manchester and has since become an award-winning concept.
‘IT WILL GET PEOPLE ON THEIR BIKES’
The forthcoming revamp of the Liverpool Road and Broadgate junction has been welcomed by one Preston-based cyclist, who says “anything that helps to rebalance our road network towards more active travel is an excellent move”.
Luke Bosman, a former chair of Garstang Cycling Club, told the Post that the computer-generated images of the scheme suggest that it will offer protection from “the more selfish motorists who routinely park on every bit of pedestrian and cycle infrastructure that they can find”.
He added: “As more and more motorists recognise the growing costs – both financial and environmental – of driving, protected infrastructure will help more of them to use active travel alternatives.”
Meanwhile, the Friends of the Guild Wheel group hopes that the new junction will encourage more people to ride along the stretch of the cycling and walking route which crosses the busy road network at that point.
The group’s chair, Rob McDougall, said that the current layout was “difficult to navigate” and could deter some people from riding that particular section of the popular path.
“It should make it more user-friendly and much safer for Guild Wheel users. The junction, in its current state, is a bit daunting - especially for people who perhaps haven't cycled for a few years and are trying to get back into it and also for parents wanting to get their kids out on their bikes,” Rob said.
He is also confident that it will have the intended effect of encouraging more cycling on the road network in the area.
“I find that people where I work say they would like to come to work on their bikes, but [they feel] it’s dangerous so any improvements to cycling infrastructure will encourage people to get on their bikes.
"It’s about tying up all these different schemes so that you can safely get from A to B. It’s the same with the scheme [currently being installed] on Ringway - it is causing some disruption at the moment, but it’s trying to join up all the little pieces.
"I know that there are some motorists - and I'm a motorist, too - who need convicing that looking after vulnerable users of the road is a good thing.
"But I was recently in Copenhagen - and the cycling infrastructure over there is fantastic. All the roundabouts that we came across are very much of the same design [to the one coming to the Broadgate area] - and so I really think this is a step in the right direction."
The cycling and pedestrian crossing point which is to be built for Guild Wheel users at the Liverpool Road and Broadgate junction will also be able to be used by horseriders, Lancashire County Council's cabinet was told.